August 26, 2019 / 4:57 AM / 3 months ago

China's Zhaojin Mining eyes doubling of gold output via overseas M&A - executive

BEIJING (Reuters) - Zhaojin Mining, one of China’s biggest gold miners, aims to double production of the precious metal as early as 2024 on the back of overseas acquisitions and may look for deals below $500 million, the head of its international arm said.

Shandong-based Zhaojin currently produces around 650,000 ounces (18.43 tonnes) a year of gold, Leo Zhao, managing director of Zhaojin International Mining Co, said at a Global Mining Association of China seminar in Beijing on Thursday.

“Our target in the next five to eight years is ... 1.3 million ounces per annum from China and global projects,” Zhao said, noting that half of that output would be from overseas, versus almost zero at present. “It’s challenging but it’s an exciting strategy,” he added.

China’s miners, the traditional drivers of M&A in the gold sector, have made no overseas gold mine acquisitions so far in 2019, according to Refinitiv Eikon data.

However, Zhaojin earlier this month agreed to set up a joint venture with Australia-based PCF Capital Group that will identify potential M&A opportunities there.

“Our priority is Australia,” Zhao told Reuters in an interview, adding that his firm was setting up an office in Perth. “We are looking for M&A opportunities in Australia, as well as in Canada but the problem in Canada is the political tension” with China, he explained.

Zhaojin has a 9.9% stake in Vancouver-based precious metals miner Sabina Gold & Silver Corp, purchased for C$66.1 million ($49.79 million) in January 2018.

But relations between Ottawa and Beijing have soured since Canada last December detained an executive of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei Technologies at the request of the United States over alleged violations of sanctions on Iran.

Asked for a rough U.S. dollar value of the type of project Zhaojin was pursuing, Zhao said. “A billion is too big. Maybe less than $500 million. It depends.”

“What we like most is a small project at a very low price with a big potential. In Australia there are lot of big projects with big potential, so you will pay more money, especially for producing mines.”

He declined to give a timeframe for the company’s next acquisition.

Together with Fosun International, Zhaojin has also been linked with a takeover of Russian miner GV Gold, which produced 304,000 ounces last year from its mines in the Russian Far East.

Zhao said his company was looking for opportunities in Russia but declined to comment on a move for GV Gold.

Reporting by Tom Daly and Shivani Singh; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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